Another NJ amusement park might be torn down
It closed suddenly 17 months ago. It has sat ever since with its rides still, the wave pool idle, frozen in time before the pandemic hit. Whatever trouble Clementon Park and Splash World was having in staying open surely would have gotten only worse once the virus came. So this was inevitable, I suppose.
Yet to hear the plans is still sad. The amusement park that has stood there since 1907 is slated for auction next month. While someone could come along and buy it as is and reopen as an entertainment attraction, the much more likely scenario is it will be redeveloped. In real estate terms, redevelopment in a case like this means everything torn down and something like condominiums going up in its place.
Now this story didn't catch my eye because it's a favorite childhood haunt of mine. In fact, I've never once been there. It caught my eye because it's a favorite childhood haunt of so many other people, and it's something we can all relate to.
We see so much of the Jersey landscape we grew up with disappear that it hurts a little bit. My Clementon Park would have been Bowcraft on 22 in Scotch Plains. I don't think it was nearly as big as the 27-acre Clementon Park and Splash World, but it was a place for kids like me to go when your parents couldn't afford to take you all the way to Great Adventure.
I still remember the layout: the mini-golf course to the left as you stood facing it on 22. Then that big tent filled with console arcade games. They had a crappy little but fun roller coaster for little kids and in later years a much better coaster for older kids. Drop rides. All kinds of stuff. I went there when I was 8 years old and I brought my kids there when they were 8 years old.
Places like this hold a special corner of your heart when there's that continuum. Just like the likely fate of Clementon, Bowcraft became residential housing. Unrecognizable.
And that brings me to my point.
I think what makes us sad to see these places go is mostly that we sort of lose that road map of our youth. I always was a bit envious of people who grew up in only one home and their parents still live there to this day. It must be special to have that one constant in your life. Me, I've moved around a lot. So maybe these places from my childhood — the Terry Lou Zoo, Edison Tower Playland, the Rahway Movie Theater as an actual movie-showing theater, Space Port arcade in the Woodbridge Center Mall, Buxton's, Bradlee's, etc. — maybe they felt like my constant.
When those constants are taken away and so wholly redeveloped that they're left unrecognizable, it's not that it makes you feel old. It's that it makes it harder to remember being young.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.